Friday, September 2, 2016

Housewives' worth a trillion dollars - says Prof R. Vaidyanathan


Women ask: Where are our Trillion Dollar output?
August 31, 2016                                                                                 

Whenever some visitors asked my elder sister “do you work” she used to be amused. She used to say “what else I do from 5am to 10 pm every day”. For most people household work is not considered as “work”. It is not included in computing National income or GDP.  National income by definition is aggregate of Products and services produced in a country during the year. But household work is not included in the services.

In other words only paid services are included. For instance if you marry your servant maid then the national income will come down. Believe me!

I had most sagacious and wise Prof Moni Mukherjee as my National Income paper—teacher in my Post Graduation at Indian Statistical Institute Calcutta. I was curious and gathered courage [in those days you don’t meet Professors in the “staff room” and ask questions!] and asked him about this issue.

He mentioned to me that the “Euro-Centric world view regarding un-paid household work is accepted as the “given wisdom” and followed by all the Economists and Economies” .This means that  bringing up children/cooking/keeping house in order and taking care of home economy are not considered as “ productive”.

When you investigate further you find that it is related to the “idea of women” as propagated by the Abrahamic faiths primarily Islam—who call themselves as “Religion of Peace”–RoP- and Christianity who call themselves as “Religion of Love”-RoL.

Unfortunately neither of these faiths—which rules more than half of the world—accepted woman as equal or “productive”. Christianity for centuries did not recognize women have “soul” and Islam treated them as a protective “meat”.

So one of the important premise was to do –de-legitimize” their contribution to the world at large more so in the sphere of Economics and computation of National Income. So to earn legitimacy they must join the “workforce”. In the initial period of Crusades/Jehadis many of them were needed as nurses to tender to the injured and so nursing as a profession was “glorified” by men. Florence of Nightingale became symbol of “highest form of sacrifice—more so Productivity”

In the earlier stages of Industrialization and Corporate developments large number of women were needed as blue color workers and also as typists/coffeemakers in office and as assistants.
So –office work began to be encouraged and household work undermined. Also efforts made to reduce household work from time and efforts point of view by new gadgets like cooker etc.

Still women were not given any position of importance in the outside work place. And so they were encouraged to “break Glass ceilings” to get into higher positions in workforce. Slowly advertisements/TV serials/Cinemas began to talk of ‘burden of family” children are burden/encumbrances” at the same time Children are needed by the society and so “super Mom’s” created by the business and media to make women work at home as well as office.

Women are encouraged to more and more be active in “office work” and they are encouraged to demand equal pay for equal work—instead of recognizing massive work at home.  Their “worth” is proved only if they perform the Acts of men” whether it is combatants role in Army or it is Speed car racing. They are permanently made to feel inferior by these “tricks”. Hence a huge mass of “Feminists” have been developed by business and corporate men to compete with men and prove their worth. Women unfortunately have fallen into this new trap to “prove” themselves.

Corporate business has also made society into “Sex centric” from family Centric since Societies which are family centric “respect” women in the household as mother/grandmother/mother in law etc. But modern business do not want a society which “respect” women but a society where “women “are craving for rights and which are thrown as crumbs by men. The arrival of Marx and communism re-enforced this stereo type of women in military /women in factories and offices as “progressive” and women at home as “backward”.

Not only that, most of these “developed” countries gave their women voting rights after much agitations and some like Switzerland as late as 1971 in their federal elections.

Unfortunately instead of questioning this whole hypothesis and premise women fell for the single largest trick of men in making them feel that they are worthies only if they ape men in dress/food/ aggression and “office work”

Post contraceptive revolution they are told that they can be more active in paid work place since Child birth is now a choice. Instead of burning women in stalks by calling them witches the modern business burns them in office by asking to “perform” /excel and show results along with unaccounted household work.

The fundamental point that household work is not treated as “productive service” was never discussed since all “renowned Economists” were men.

Colonized countries like India also adopted the same route since colonizers wanted to create a mirror image of their civilization on the “unwashed” in terms of culture/language/economics etc.
Hence we never count million women hours spent by women in cooking/fetching water/bringing up children etc. That is totally lost.

In a pioneering work “GDP and the Value of Family Caretaking: How Much Does Europe Care?
Gianna C. Giannelli University of Florence et all [Discussion Paper No. 5046 July 2010
IZA– Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit Institute for the Study of Labor] estimates
that for Europe as a whole, the total value of these activities ranges between 20.1 per cent and 36.8 per cent of the EU GDP, depending on the applied methodology.

It is all the more shameful for a country like ours where major Gods are women and important things in life like Education/Wealth and Valor are given as boons only by women Gods. WE pray to Lakshmi for wealth /pray to Saraswathi for Education/knowledge/pray to Durga [Parvathi] for valor or power. Actually most men Gods can’t offer many of these worldly thingsJ .Not only that—most of the names of male gods is Pre-fixed with the name of his wife { not suffixedJ] like Sita Raman or Radha Krishnan

We are one of the few living civilizations who recognized the contribution of Women Rishis like Gargi who questioned Sage Yajnavalkya.

We are essentially a “women centric civilization” and predominantly our economy can be called “Feminine Economics” unlike that of Europe and Middle East which are “Masculine Economics”. Masculine economies are destructive and anti-woman while as feminine Economies are nature and animal friendly and preserving by its design. Feminine economics is inclusive /collaborative and Cooperative. Masculine of the Abrahamic faiths are competitive as in war and exclusive and violent in nature.

In the last several centuries trillions of dollars of household work undertaken by women were not counted and it continues even today. In the context of the decline of the west and slow eclipse of Euro Centric view of the world—it is required for countries like India to re-think some of these basic things imposed by colonialism. Even if we take Housework to be same as the “measured work” in an economy like ours –we will find that our GDP is at least twice as big as it is currently counted.

Time has come for ancient but living non-Abrahamic civilizations like India to recognize the services of its women /recount and make a new world order. As a beginning Government can ask some its eminent “internationally known/recognised” economists to estimate the trillions of dollars of uncounted services provided by housewives sorry home makers in India. Somewhere we need to start.


Unknown said...

Nice article madam Jayashree. I had always admired your effort in intricate research on various topics of our dharma and had remained a silent reader. Now I want to break the silence.
I very well can understand your views on the various sub religions like advaita, VA, shaivism, neo-hinduism, etc. and also on certain thought processes like womens' position, caste-varna, meat-eating, yagnas, by reading your articles for a long time.
With this in background, I would like to know your stand on the sect called the 'hare krishna movement' alias ISKON to which I was once affiliated with. They seem to have many strange notions regarding varna and wrt. women.
Eg 1 :
Eg 2 :
Eg 3 :

As a srivaishnava (i presume), how do you view these statements ?

No offense of any kind intended. Thank you.

Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

Thanks for your compliments Mr Siddha artha.

I have no comments on ISKON as I am not interested in it, nor have gone through their views. I think many of the modern sects on Hinduism including ISKON, spearheaded by some yogi or swami, cater to the needs of certain types of people. They could even be regarded as first level tools to attract people to Hindu thought. But I don't consider any of them as the one and only or the final tools that can help a person to cross karma. They may give an idea of what is karma, cycle of rebirth, atma and paramatma. But it is up to the individual to come into terms with them through inner realization, own experiences, thinking etc. No amount of preaching, discourses, and bookish knowledge can make a person really understand where he stands and how far he has to go in understanding his karmic path. But some beginning can be made when a person somehow comes into contact with one of these tools that spread Hindu Thought.

The same with traditional paths of Hindu thought such as Advaita or Srivasihnavism. At some point one will find some inner generation of thoughts in sync with them or even questioning some of their tenets. I think you have gone through that phase with ISKON when you came across the notions given in the links you have quoted. It is difficult to accept the man- woman concept in marriage given in that link - as your (and my mind too ) start wondering should women be subordinate to man in marriage? At this point we start doing our own search and research. The best source to do that research is the Ithihasas. We have to choose the right one that syncs with Man- woman relationship. Ramayana fits the bill.

In Ramayana, was Sita a submissive woman? Did she play a subordinate role to her husband. Did she always abide by her husband's words? The answers to all these are NO. This runs counter to Prabhupada's views!


Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

In my opinion there are a number of issues on this topic that can be understood from Rama- Sita's life. The basic lesson is that the relationship between husband and wife must be complementary and NOT one-sided with one partner dominating and another one becoming submissive. The golden deer episode can be quoted to show how and where man must become dominating and who must give in and when.

In the golden deer episode, Sita does say that desiring an object like a golden deer does not befit a woman as per tradition (Kaama vrittham idam raudram streenam a-shadrisham matham - VR 3-21). But her craving for it could not be controlled.Like this there are grey areas where women slip. Likewise men also slip in issues of fidelity and going after another man's wife like Ravana did. All such issues come under the common tern "Kaama", the 3rd purushartha. As I have written elsewhere in this blogspot, people adhere to rules in Dharma and artha, but slip away in Kama. It is because people apply a tag that it is personal. The kind of problems faced in the Western world that Prabhpadaji quotes in the links, and which are there in India too, are due to the mis-conceived reasoning that nothing controls one in issues pertaining to Kaama. But that is the main issue that makes one err again and again as a karmic chain reaction. The result is that people continue to be held under the grip of Tri-gunya vishya. Only when one realises the kind of Guna that is driving, can one do something about coming out of it.

All the issues discussed in the links you have given can be clubbed together under Kaama. The dos and donts for men and women in this section change from time to time and are codified under smruthis. What Prabhupadaji told about Asian women does not hold water in today's world. Everything is changing with the result that karmic result is also becoming too binding and pushing people into inescapable vicious cycle. In this situation, it is necessary that people apply mind and try to be on the side of dharma, however difficult it may be.

You have asked my views as a srivaishanava. Basically I am of the opinion that Srivaishnava philosophy as it is spread today is not the final idea of Vedantha. There is something wanting in that. What is being projected today is somewhat dogmatic and not reflective of the core ideas of Ramanuja and Vedantha. If you mean the marital issues given the links, I would say that they are universal and not dependent on sects. Wife being submissive to a nasty husband is not dharmic at all but only a case of the wife spending a bad karma.

Jayasree Saranathan Ph.D said...

I think I can discuss in this context the life of Kannagi. She was married to Kovalan at a young age. She was a perfect definition of Pati vradhai. She was submissive and had everything centred around her husband. But her husband committed adultery and lost all wealth in the course. He returned a pauper and Kannagi accepted him. She gave him his anklet to be sold for raising money. So far whatever she had done for him and for keeping up the harmony of the household are expected of women and promoted by the society. Now comes the turning point. Her husband was killed while he was trying to sell her anklet on the pretext that it was a stolen one. For someone who had been a perfect, submissive and tolerant wife, this is the ultimate blow. She has tolerated her husband's cheating, tolerated him losing their wealth. But why should she face a terrible fate of losing her husband for the sake of the anklet which was her own?

The anklet had a story of its own in those days. The girl is given the anklet as a "kaappu" or protection at her young age (till marriage) by her parents. After marriage, the anklet was removed in a ceremony. Now after marriage, he husband himself became her protector. That was the theory of Hindu sastras. But neither the anklet nor her husband protected her. Why her perfect pati- vrata-ness failed to safeguard her?

Kannagi did raise this question to the people of the city of Madurai as she wandered through the streets and she didnt get a convincing answer. She was extremely sad that her perfect role as a wife did not save her and that only thing she saw in life was suffering and extreme suffering. Here comes a question. Is there any link between her perfect wife-ness and the kind of fate she suffered? Obviously nothing. What she suffered was due to her past karma. This was explained to her by the deity of Madurai city.

If so, what use having such perfect characteristics? The answer was that it made her a perfect being and even a divine being. Her power of perfect wifehood made her words come true. Her anger burnt the city with the result that people released her to be supreme being and a divine figure and started started worshiping her.

The deduction from this story is that such perfect traits, be in a man or a woman make them exemplary ones and even closer to divinity. The insistence on such rare qualities in women as wife and in men as husband (yes, such rules are there for men too as Rama is quoted for that) are meant to shape them and make them rise towards higher consciousness and divine level. Seen from this perspective, the rules for perfect wife or husband are there for setting standards for people to strive and reach such levels that would make them attain Moksha, the next purushartha.

Siddh Arth said...

Thanks for the reply. I feel your blog deserves to attract more readers than what it has, given the extent of information in it. many valuable articles have no comments at all. At the same time, I do admit that I am doubtful of certain views given by you in olden articles such as yuga calculation,tamil language's superiorityetc.

Anyways, let me give a brief up of iskon. (to save your time !). One Chaitanya in 15th century bengal started a mass movement of krishna-radha centered vaishnavism whose idea was that bhakti alone is enough to atttain moksha in abode of krishna called Goloka(superior to Vaikunta) and nityakarma, ashtanga yoga, varnashrama dharma etc are fultile.Naturally, they were heavily against brahmins and birth based caste system. As this sect started to diminish around the turn of 20th century, Prabupada went to US and started iskcon in 1967, admitting a huge number of forigners into their fold. Now iscon is a multimilliion dollar worth institution, having undergone through several issues decades back. They are very influential and have started occupying our country's philosophical space.Iskon's propaganda ways resemble more like that of christians and teachings are dogmatic. Most indians who get influenced by iskon seem to develop a high sense of superiority complex, and tend to have pessimistic views on marriage, women and celibacy.
Gaudiya vaishnavism, and consequently iskcon claims its lineage to be from that of Madhvacharya, but their philosophical exposition is miles away from dvaita and greatly resembles sri vaishnavism, and it is this reason that I asked your views from a srivaishnava perspective.